COLUMBIA Mo. -- The midseason removal of Kansas State coach Ron Prince was bound to have one of two effects on K-State's meeting with Missouri. The recent coaching drama was either going to provide a spark to K-State team that desperately needed one, or as ended up being the case in Saturday's 41-24 loss, cause the Wildcats to lay down underneath the paws of the No. 14 Tigers.
Sure, nobody expected the Wildcats, 4-6 on the season and led by a lame-duck head coach, to stroll into Columbia and steal a win, but an uninspired offensive effort combined with the same defensive issues the Wildcats have battled for more than a year will make even the most loyal K-State fan wonder.
Were the players on the field wishing somebody would stop the fight?
"I don't want to say we quit," senior linebacker Reggie Walker said. "It's just like Coach Prince said in that article. He was right, when it comes to being competitive, this team needs to grow up. We might make strides, but we need to grow up as a team."
Well, whether Walker believes it or not, it sure looked like the Tigers got less than K-State's best effort on Saturday night. The Wildcats' most recent loss was one marred by missed tackles, wasted opportunities, and unforced penalties, but then again, can you blame them?
"When you get a coaching change, you're going to be shocked," sophomore cornerback Joshua Moore said after the loss. "That's just something that happened this week."
The shock Moore and his teammates were still feeling Saturday certainly showed on the field. Missouri sophomore wide receiver Jeremy Maclin had his way with the Wildcats' defense to the tune of a eight-catch, 118-yard, two-touchdown performance.
"I've played against a lot of good players, and (Maclin) is obviously one of the bests," K-State senior defensive end Ian Campbell said. He's a dynamic player. My hat is off to him"
But while Moore, Campbell and a Wildcats' defense that yielded 511 total yards were definitely a problem, the K-State offense was by no means the solution.
K-State quarterback Josh Freeman scored K-State's first touchdown of the game more than 14 minutes into the third quarter on a 6-yard touchdown scamper, briefly drawing his team to within 17 points of the Tigers. Still, the Freeman touchdown run meant little in the game's context, as the Tigers used a bit of K-State's own medicine to create ample separation early on.
A blocked D.J. Fulhage punt late in the game's second quarter resulted in a one-play Missouri scoring drive that consisted of a 42-yard touchdown strike from Tiger quarterback Chase Daniel to Maclin, putting Missouri up 17-0.
Macklin would strike again just minutes later. This time, the sophomore would find the end zone on a 16-yard catch that gave Missouri a 24-0 lead, and though K-State place kicker Brooks Rossman used a 43-yard field goal to get the Wildcats on the board on the last play of the first half, for the third consecutive week, any hope the Wildcats had at stealing an upset, looked all but lost before the halftime whistle blew.
"They just have too many playmakers," Prince said following the loss. "When you don't get the kind of offensive support that you need to go out and challenge these guys and go toe-to-toe with them, then you just get worn down. They have too many good playmakers. They have a great team."
The Wildcat defense posted back-to-back stops to open the game, but the K-State defense fans have grown accustom recently would reappear. The Tigers' third drive of the game, a 4-play, 84-yard march, resulted in a 6-yard Derrick Washington touchdown run.
"We played really well at first," Walker said. "There were times we played really great, but there were times we played really bad. We just have to be consistent."
After watching the offense go three and out on its game opening drive, K-State's defense didn't wait long to reclaim possession. Junior cornerback Blair Irvin picked off Daniel on the Tigers' second offensive play from scrimmage, but the ensuing drive would stall at the Missouri 26-yard line on a failed fake field goal attempt.
Bold and daring isn't dead just yet.
"We thought there was an opportunity there, and then we also wanted to make sure we could go get a lead in the game by being aggressive early," Prince said. "That's what we were going to attempt to do."
Despite tossing the early interception, Daniel threw for 271 yards and two scores before being pulled from the game in the final quarter to make way for backup quarterback Chase Patton, allowing Daniel to leave his final home game in a Tiger uniform to a standing ovation.
Freeman, who was also pulled in the forth quarter in favor of his backup, junior Carson Coffman, completed 18 of 36 passes for 131 yards while gaining 56 yards on 14 rushes. And while the game was anything but a big one for the K-State junior, he did limp his way past Ell Roberson to claim K-State's record for total-offense in a career.
Brandon Banks, who scored a pair of ultimately meaningless touchdowns in the final quarter, one on a 4-yard reception and one coming via a 93-yard designed run, went into the books as the game's leading rusher with a total of 95 yards on the ground. .
K-State returns home next weekend to host 6-4 Nebraska, a winner over Kansas on Saturday.